Maggie Estep, Alice Fantastic, Uma Thurman… and me?

Sunday November 29: Inquiring Mind Bookstore, Main Street, Saugerties
all reading from current and recent works. 4-6pm. Free.

I’ve never met Maggie Estep
. At least not yet. This seems somewhat surprising, given how relatively close our paths have crossed. In what I believe was the early 90s, when I lived just above Manhattan’s East Village, and seemed to be going out to gigs every night, Estep was frequently to be found at places like the Nuyorican Poets’ Café and Café Bustelo, engaging in Poetry Slams and Fiction Gigs, a very punk take on the area’s long-standing love affair with the written word. Those gigs got her a stint on MTV, a slot on Lollapalooza, and a major-ish label deal: her 1994 No More Mister Nice Girl collection of stories set to music is playing on the CD deck as I type. (Actually, it’s pausing; I find it hard to write while someone else is talking/singing/reading.)

To my possible discredit, I didn’t attend any of these shows, but when, in 2004, Estep’s work showed up in an excellent collection of short stories, Brooklyn Noir, set in my then home borough, I was pleased to be re-introduced to her lyricism. I also liked that Estep’s contribution, “Triple Harrison,” distanced itself from the anthology’s other short stories, set as it was in the little known horse stables of East New York, an area generally best known as the City’s murder capital.

And then, earlier this year, after an overnight stay in the area, I stopped in at the Park Slope Barnes & Noble, where I found myself instantly gravitating towards Estep’s new novel, Alice Fantastic, prominently displayed as it was on a front counter. I picked it up and flicked it open to find myself at a particularly steamy sex scene. No great surprise there; Estep has always dealt openly and readily with sexual attraction and action of all persuasions and permissiveness. And so I opted for an impulse purchase, on the premise that it was a new novel by a writer I’ve always admired but never financially supported, that it was published by a respected indie house (Akashic, founded by former Girls Against Boys’ bassist Johnny Temple), and that my wife might appreciate it as an unexpected gift.

She did. (Especially the steamy sex scenes.) But only a few pages into her bedside reading, she turned to me and said, -You do realize this book is set in Woodstock, don’t you?

-No, I said by return. -I’m certain that the steamy sex scene to which I inadvertently opened up the book takes place in New York City. (My speech generally splits its pronouns; I’m trying not do so in my writing any more.)

-Maybe so. But Alice’s mom lives in Woodstock, off Byrdcliffe Road. There’s references to all sorts of places we know in here. Didn’t you even read the back cover? Look here at Maggie’s bio. It says that she lives in Woodstock.

-It does? I did. And indeed, it does. Maggie Estep lives in Woodstock. There should be an exclamation mark at the end of that sentence. I associate Estep with the Lower East Side. I associate her with Brooklyn Noir. I don’t associate her with the bucolic Catskills. But then, of course, people have said the same about me.

And then the next day, more or less, we pick up the Woodstock Times, and there is a profile on Maggie Estep, who is giving a reading from Alice Fantastic at the Golden Notebook, the same store that recently sponsored my own book launch. Sure enough, Maggie Estep lives in Woodstock, yet another NYC refugee attracted to the historically famous Arts Colony.
Sadly, I was out of the country that weekend. (In other words, I was in the City.) And so, I still haven’t met Maggie Estep. That should change, this Sunday, November 29, however, when Maggie Estep, myself, fellow NYC expat novelist Jana Martin and Chronogram music editor Peter Aaron (former guitarist with the Chrome Cranks) will all be reading at the Inquiring Mind Bookstore on Main Street in Saugerties, one town east of Woodstock. And a delightful town it is. (Amongst its other excellent offerings, you should know about the Partition Street Wine Store, one of the best in the region.) Anyway, the reading takes place at 4pm, it should last for a couple of hours, there’s a Muddy Cup café in-store to cater to your caffeine fix, and we will all be happy to sell and sign our work.

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October 2021